By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Feb 24 (IANS) Bollywood star Suniel Shetty feels Congress MP Rahul Gandhi should step in to save the sport from the "doldrums".
"Only Rahul Gandhi with his initiative and youth power can rescue hockey from the doldrums. Otherwise the game is doomed," Suniel told IANS.
Suniel intends to request Rahul Gandhi to bring a sense of direction to the game.
The fiasco on Saturday at the sports event hosted in Chandigarh by the AMR Sports Foundation, where the national hockey players apparently asked for Rs.500 million at the eleventh hour to play at the event, has not left Suniel disillusioned or discouraged.
"See, what happened in Chandirgarh was really sad. I don't know what happened between the event's organisers and our boys from the national hockey team. If they really asked for the money, then they shouldn't have.
"But think of it from their point of view. Hockey players in our country are still so underpaid. They're under so much pressure from their family to give up hockey and do something more paying. How long can our players withstand the financial pressure?"
The sports event at Chandigarh was touted as the ultimate teaser before the World Cup matches, but ended up being a damp squib. Dharmendra and his sons, Sunny and Bobby Deol, were shooting in Patiala and were expected to attend, cancelled at the last minute.
"It was not Dharamji's fault at all. He was all set to travel from Patiala to Chandigarh when the organisers informed him not to come because of the chaos that happened over the money the hockey players demanded. I was also told not to come. But I didn't listen. And I'm glad I went. There were 30,000 expectant people in the stadium at Chandigarh," said Suniel.
He feels every sport in the country barring cricket is in a shoddy condition.
"Look at the way our world-class sport persons like Abhinav Bhindra are treated. It's a shame. We really need to respect sports and sportsmen other than cricket. We keep forgetting we have a Hockey World Cup coming up. And we cannot allow our hockey players to be demoralised in this way. Like I said, we need Rahul Gandhi to step in," said Suniel.